[Paleopsych] meaning and entropy, meaning and waste
HowlBloom at aol.com
HowlBloom at aol.com
Sun Sep 26 05:42:35 UTC 2004
Eshel Ben-Jacob has brought a very important concept into the dialog that
goes on here. It’s “meaning”. Meaning and its relationship to
relationships--its relationship to sociality, its relationship to linguistics, its
relationship to context. Eshel's latest paper, “Seeking the Foundations of
Cognition:From Thermodynamics to Contextual Information and Back”, is forcing me to
rethink old thoughts about entropy in slightly new ways. So please bear with me as
I try to tie a few threads of thought together.
Entropy is related to meaning. Not to information, at least not in Shannon’s
sense of information… but to meaning. Energy is motion that can be put to
work. Entropy is disordered energy. Entropy is the waste made by work—
specifically by the work of a “heat engine”—by the work of a steam engine. Waste is
energy teasing the cosmos, daring the universe to make its next creative
upgrade, the upgrade that will harness the mischief of waste. Waste is energy
waiting for meaning. It is energy waiting for a rider that can tame it, for a
harvester who can use it to achieve whatever purpose the harvester is aiming
Let’s get back to entropy. Waste is entropy. And entropy is waste. Waste
is just a temporary state. It’s a state that invites the evolution of the
goals and of the gizmos—living or dead—that produce meaning. 300,000 ABB (after
the big bang), atoms gave the random movement of protons and electrons a new
meaning. 380,000 ABB gas wisps gave atoms new meaning. Roughly 600,000 ABB
galaxies gave gas wisps new meaning. Then came stars, giving an entirely new set
of meanings to atoms, gas wisps, and galaxies.
Today we are giving the photons shed by those stars new meaning every day in
the offices of astrophysicists, in the interpretations of astrologers, in the
myths of indigenous peoples, in the wonder evoked in those who stare at the
stars from dark fields in the American Midwest, from porches in Portland Maine
and Portland Oregon, and from rooftops in Beijing and Beirut.
Which leaves us with a few more questions and a few more hints at answers.
What is meaning? What’s the difference between meaning and information? Are
meaning and information separable?
Goals are a part of meaning. What does it take to produce a goal?
Here’s a guess. It takes a sense of past and a sense of future. Why?
Because goals compact the past to predict to a future.
If that’s true, do atoms really give new meaning to protons and electrons?
Does a proton or an electron have enough past compacted within it to anticipate
a future? Is that anticipation really necessary to meaning?
Does it take a vast mesh of another of this cosmos’ inventions—molecules—to
give meaning to atoms? How vast must that mesh be before it anticipates a
future? How vast must that interacting society of atoms be to create the first
primitive scenario of "what's next"?
Here’s another question, this one inspired by the concepts of Paul Werbos and
Pavel Kurakin. If time is reversible, is the future spreading its tendrils
as much into the past as the past is spreading its tendrils into the future?
If the future is beckoning us forward through the sheer power of a future to
attract all that a cosmos holds, how would that change the meaning of meaning?
And what would the nature be of the future's attractive power?
Sorry for pestering you with so many questions, but the meaning of meaning—
the latest of Eshel’s fertile mysteries—seem worth re-perceiving.
Author of The Lucifer Principle: A Scientific Expedition Into the Forces of
History and Global Brain: The Evolution of Mass Mind From The Big Bang to the
Visiting Scholar-Graduate Psychology Department, New York University; Core
Faculty Member, The Graduate Institute
Founder: International Paleopsychology Project; founding board member: Epic
of Evolution Society; founding board member, The Darwin Project; founder: The
Big Bang Tango Media Lab; member: New York Academy of Sciences, American
Association for the Advancement of Science, American Psychological Society, Academy
of Political Science, Human Behavior and Evolution Society, International
Society for Human Ethology; advisory board member: Youthactivism.org; executive
editor -- New Paradigm book series.
For information on The International Paleopsychology Project, see:
for two chapters from
The Lucifer Principle: A Scientific Expedition Into the Forces of History,
For information on Global Brain: The Evolution of Mass Mind from the Big Bang
to the 21st Century, see www.howardbloom.net
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